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'Comic Potential': Romantic sci-fi

February 7, 2013

The Theatre Program presents the romantic sci-fi, 'Comic Potential,' by award-winning writer Sir Alan Ayckbourn. Ayckbourn is an Olivier and Tony Award winning playwright who has written 77 plays, more than half of which have been produced in London's West End as well as around the world.

Image by CSU Photography.All performances of Comic Potential will be held in the Studio Theatre at the University Center of the Arts, 1400 Remington Street.

Performances are Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m.


  • $8/CSU students
  • $8 for youth (under 17) Content suitable for youth 13 and over
  • $18 for the public

Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) Ticket Office in the UCA Griffin Lobby, by phone at (970) 491-2787, or online.  Advance purchase is recommended to avoid at-the-door fees.

CSU students get in free on Ticket Thursdays: Jan. 31 and Feb. 14. Space is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Contact the Ticket Office at (970) 491-ARTS (2787).

Comedy writer falls for robot

Comic Potential premiered in Scarborough in June 1998 before hitting the London theatre circuit the following year. The play was an immediate success; critics and audiences alike praised Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s story-telling ability and his commentary on the human characteristics of love and laughter.

Set in a not-too-distant future when actors have been replaced with robots (actoids), we meet Adam Trainsmith, an aspiring comedy writer, who meets and falls in love with an actoid that has an endearing malfunction: the ability to laugh. Audiences will root for the odd couple as they battle many obstacles in the name of love.

Director Eric Prince and Alan Ayckbourn

CSU theatre professor and director of Comic Potential, Eric Prince, Ph.D., has special ties to the original playwright, Sir Alan Ayckbourn. He worked in close association with the writer and his acclaimed Stephen Joseph Theatre for 18 years in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. 

Image by CSU Photography.“I got to be backstage at his shows and see him at work with his actors. It was exhilarating to watch the master at work creating his pieces and bringing them to life on stage,” Prince said.

Comic Potential will raise some interesting questions for the audience concerning artificial intelligence and human emotions, and relationships.

“The story is very relevant today. With the growing use of CGI (computer-generated imagery), the need for real actors, real sets, and real effects is diminishing,” Prince said. “In Comic Potential, human actors are replaced by robots that don’t require payment, are more reliable, and give flawless performances.”

The playwright's inspiration

In a personal note for CSU, Ayckbourn shares his original inspiration for writing Comic Potential:

“It sprang from my belief that laughter and love are closely allied. Both concepts, laughter and love, are essentially devoid of logic. Machines, however humanoid in appearance, cannot comprehend these two unique quirks of human behavior. And if they could, they would suspect an illogical malfunction.

The play divides the humans with humor, the humans devoid of humor, the actoids without humor, and the actoid with humor. How close are we to machines and how close to us are they? I hope the play combines both elements; it’s full of humor and it’s filled with love,” said the writer.

Image by CSU Photography.The audience will be able to watch these themes unfold in a theatre-in-the-round performance; the same way Ackybourn staged the play. This brings the audience closer to the action with one-third of the audience being in the front row seated around the circular stage in CSU’s Studio Theatre.

“This allows the audience to connect with each other and the actors, putting everyone in the room on display, which creates a different atmosphere,” Prince said. “The students will have to rise up to the occasion and be confident when creating the illusion of the story.”

Comic Potential is known for making a lasting impression, and the end of the play leaves the audience with a single warning.

“I can’t share that piece,” said Prince. “You’ll just have to come and find out for yourself.”

Performance dates

Nightly: Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: Carrie Care
Phone: (970) 491-5891